Ketchikan Public Library

File — The Ketchikan Public Library is seen in this Aug. 11, 2022, file image.

Staff photo by Sam Stockbridge

The Ketchikan City Council in a regular meeting Tuesday evening heard nearly two hours of public comment concerning the sole action item on its agenda concerning whether the library should go forward in holding another "Drag Queen Story Time" that was held last year in June as part of National Pride Month.

Library Director Pat Tully had been planning to hold the Drag Queen event again in June, but earlier in May Ketchikan City Manager Delilah Walsh directed Tully to not hold it as a City-hosted program.

There were two proposed motions on the Council's Tuesday agenda. One would have overturned Walsh's directive to the library's director. The second motion would have allowed the City Council to establish a policy related to the event.

The meeting saw 26 speakers against holding the Drag Queen Story Time and 12 speakers in support of the event.

Following public comment, Council Member Janalee Gage made a motion, choosing the first option, which would have reversed Walsh's shutdown of a City-hosted event.

Council Member Riley Gass then made a formal objection to consideration of the motion. City Clerk Kim Stanker told Council members that the objection would be upheld and that Gage's motion would not be considered if a minimum of four council members supported Gass' objection.

Gass explained why he objected, saying that he believed that Walsh should be supported in her decision making.

"Less than a year ago," Gass said, "we made a decision to hire the new manager. We as a body entrusted her with the decisions on running our departments and leading the city, including the library."

Gass' objection was upheld, with Council members Lallette Kistler, Gass, Jai Mahtani and Abby Bradberry voting to support it. There was no discussion on the issue following the vote.

The Council in a regular meeting on June 16 last year decided in a 5-2 vote to reject a motion to force library staff to cancel the event. There were nearly two hours of public comment concerning the Drag Queen Story Time at that meeting.

Objections by speakers to the Drag Queen Story Time at Tuesday's meeting included many aspects. Some speakers asked the Council to focus on utilities and infrastructure needs rather than social issues. Some asked the Council to refrain from focusing on issues that divide the community.

Several speakers shared their opinions that the Drag Queen Story Time was pushing a sexualized agenda on children. Some speakers objected to the event simply because they felt it was "garbage," "hyper-polarized," "lascivious," "based on a lie," and "abhorrent." Several people implored the Council simply to support the City manager's decision-making process.

Speakers who spoke in support of holding the Drag Queen Story Time emphasized the need to show marginalized community members that they are loved and supported. One speaker pointed out that banning a person from volunteering as a reader at a library event based on their gender was a violation of the Civil Rights Act.

Also mentioned by supporters of the library event was that all members of the community should be represented in government-hosted events, not just those in the majority. They also noted that history has shown that when many people object to a type of person or activity, that over the years society loses its fear of what seems different or scary and those people or activities become accepted with education and exposure.

Several people in support of the event simply argued that the issue already had been debated and voted on last year, and dragging the issue up again only fired up the culture war again unnecessarily. Others pointed out that it was "unpatriotic" and "un-American" to try to trample on other people's human rights and freedoms.

At one point during public comment, as a speaker spoke in support of holding the Drag Queen Story Time, a person in the audience began shouting, "Leave the kids alone!" Ketchikan City Mayor Dave Kiffer asked the police chief to quiet the heckler.

The library has several events to celebrate Pride Month on its June calendar, including a "Read the Rainbow" book challenge scheduled for the entire month; a "Proud to Be Me!" crafting event, and a "Pride Family Storytime" that is co-sponsored with the Ketchikan Pride Alliance.

The next regular City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on June 1 in the Council Chambers, located in City Hall at 334 Front St. There is time allotted at the start of the meeting for public comment.

The meeting can be viewed live via the KPU cable television service, on the City of Ketchikan YouTube channel and also on the City of Ketchikan's website at